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Nothing to play for, but pride in the jersey for Jonathan Sexton

And maybe a bit more form in the bank wouldn’t go amiss either.

Image: Gary Carr/INPHO

‘WHEN THE TEN goes well, the team goes well…’

So goes Ronan O’Gara’s reversible symbiotic catchphrase about the impact an out-half’s performance has on the 14 players around him.

It’s a mentality that Jonathan Sexton will have used to ensure he didn’t get bogged down by criticism (including from these pages) of his performances in his first months back in Leinster blue.

As more time floods in between the present and the dreadful sunny day at home to Wasps in November, the better things look for Leinster – as long as you’re over the Champions Cup exit, that is.

They’re on a nice little seven-game winning streak in the Pro12, win their game in hand and they’ll top the table, the player exodus may not be quite as bad as first feared and that young crop of players look more than capable of playing at the very top.

“It wasn’t ideal preparation looking back now,” Sexton said of the early Champions Cup rounds today.

“At the time we said it wasn’t an excuse, but now that we’ve been together a lot longer and we’re getting to grips with the gameplan and each other, you see our performances just getting better and better.”

Collectively, and individually. In the away win over bogey-team Ospreys, Sexton displayed some very promising signs that he’s returning to form with impeccable timing for Ireland.

Wasps may be the game in his sights today, but the lack of incentive for Leinster the club does not hold true for the individuals with points to prove.

All of us have something different to play for. Whether that’s going in to the Six Nations squad, or trying to get your jersey for Leinster next week against the Dragons. We all have something to play for.

“Guys came in last week, showed us what needs to be done. Fair play to the young guys who got their first start. They really stepped it up and we have to follow them now.”

Jonathan Sexton arrives Sexton and his roller arrive for last weekend's game against Bath. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

There is value to be found for the collective group too. Due to the way fixtures fall and untimely losses of form, Leinster have not won an away European game since December 2014. Only four actual away games ago, but a considerable stretch of time. Updating intellectual property like that would do absolutely no harm to the Blues when they begin preparing for the competition next season.

“It’s a tough thing to do in Europe, especially over the last couple of years,” Sexton says of the losses to Harlequins, Bath, Toulon and a draw with Wasps that make up the travelling form guide since a 16 – 21 win in Castres.

“The competition has got a hell of a lot tougher in the new format. To go away from home and get a victory is a really hard thing to do in this competition.

“We’re up against it again this week. Wasps have everything to play for: they get a win and they go through, we’ve nothing to play for.

“It shows where we’re at, what putting on the jersey means to us, in how we turn up and play.”

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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